Neil McFarquhar's new book

Neil McFarquhar, who ran the NYT's Cairo bureau between 2000 and 2005, has a new semi-autobiographical book out on his life in the Middle East, as a boy and later as a reporter. The book, titled The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East, is billed as an attempt to show the every day side of the Middle East, away from the wars and headlines. There's an interview with McFarquhar at in which he elaborates on the book and his experience as a reporter in the Middle East. Some good anecdotes about Fairouz's concert at the Pyramids and more in there.

You can get the book's first chapter here. [PDF]

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,